Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Accident...Part V: Perspective

This is my last post in my series about the accident itself. I have certainly provided enough details to understand the experience of being trapped and the injuries I sustained. I just have a few more important things to say about the subject.

When you are shown the mirror of your mortality, yet only to glimpse it, you sometimes become afraid of the life you are left with. Many people are in car crashes and have a terrible time getting back into the car. I am thankful that I am not one of them--I have recently started driving and I am just fine. Perhaps more alert and focused, but I am not afraid.

During my recovery these many months, I have learned that people who experience extremely traumatic events may find themselves on auto-pilot in order to get through the day-to-day. Instead of processing what occurred so that they can move on, they instead have not found themselves going through the range of emotions that must be faced. Fear, anger, sadness, hysteria, mourning...all of the above and more...will come to pass...it is simply a matter of when.

Some people can go through it immediately, as their physical trauma initially occurs, so that they are facing everything to come with full acceptance. But the others who wait...whether it is conscious or subconscious...though they try to move forward, find that there is something brewing under the surface. They may not even know it for months. And yet after X many months, that flood of emotions will still come as strong as it would have in the beginning...it may now even feel stronger because they have waited so long to acknowledge its presence.

I know all this because it happened to me.

Being in a near-fatal accident is expensive. I mean, even if you have awesome insurance--which I happened to have--it still costs way more than you would ever think. It’s no wonder to me now why healthcare costs are so high, and furthermore, I have no idea what people without health insurance do in my situation. I can't possibly imagine.

The horrific crash required the Jaws of Life to be used, as you recall. Sometimes when I am in one of those weird, dark humor moods I think to myself, “Wow! I can actually cross that off my bucket list”. I know it’s sick and twisted, but it’s also something that I know that many of you out there relate to when I say it. Coming back to the reality of it, however, the need for that type of assistance to get out of a vehicle is a horrible experience that’s scary and loud and frustrating. Mine took hours…I know.

I didn’t remember her name, but I remembered her voice like it was my mother’s. Tammy (I never knew her last name), was part of the Jaws crew and was assigned to keeping me awake by talking with me, etc. I think I can say with relative certainty that the general population knows this rule: if someone is badly hurt and is fading out, you keep them awake by talking. Well, that was Tammy’s job, and though it sounds like its nothing, it is usually the first thing that saves people’s lives. I know it saved mine.

But as I said, my memory of the experience is in pieces, and I have described the accident details in other posts as I remember them. What I want to talk about here is my phone call with Tammy...a call which occurred long after the accident, my stay in the hospital, my trip home, and even some small amount of time thereafter.

The agency that Tammy worked for did not receive my insurance information at the time of the accident (what? you mean the Jaws of Life people didn't make me fill out a form with my insurance info?), so they sent me a bill, quite an astronomical amount really, and noted that I needed to call to provide the insurance information. I think someone from the company even called my house a few times before I finally got around to them.

I forget what day it was that I called, but I had no PT or CNAs that afternoon (they were coming to my house at that time because I was too weak to leave the house other than for doctor appointments). I was alone. That I remember. And this girl with a familiar voice answered, and I gave her the information. It was Tammy, of course. And just before we hung up the phone, she mentioned that she was glad to hear me doing so well.

Well, I was shocked to have her say this, but almost immediately knew why: she was at my accident sight. Not only was she there, but she was the voice that kept me talking as much as I could. I must have been in complete shock when I asked her if she had time to elaborate more about the accident, as I wasn’t able to remember all the details.

I remember that she first said that it was the toughest extraction they had ever done. I couldn’t believe her at first. How could I be the hardest one…me…little old me? But she was adamant about it. She explained that her role was to keep the victim (me) talking and to make physical contact with the victim…hold hands, rub their back, whatever. She said that she was hanging down into the cab of the U-Haul, but that she couldn’t even get to me.

Again, it wasn’t possible in my mind because I was certain of where I was trapped and how. You see, I had initially thought...no, I was sure that I was sandwiched by my seat underneath the steering wheel. So of course she could see me and touch me. This was my truth as I knew it, and she was about to smash it to bits. I was starting to sweat and my heart was racing, and although I almost couldn’t breathe, I had to continue to listen…and learn.

She told me I was trapped underneath the steering wheel…this much of my understanding and memory was true…but I was way up past the steering column and into the front of the U-Haul. I couldn’t be seen or touched. This was why it was so difficult for the team to cut me out. They did not know where I was. (Note: I know I explained where I was in my post about the accident, but try to understand that up until this moment, months later, I had no clue about these details. During the accident I had it in my mind that I was still in plain sight and that it was taking an achingly long time for nothing.)

As she spoke about this, a sudden crash of small memories came rushing back to me. I recalled the ripped metal that created a small space from which I could see feet and light. I remembered using that space to throw things that had fallen loose…prescription bottles from my bag (which months later I got to see again)…so that the team had an idea of where I was.

I remembered making a deal with the guys who were cutting that I would help them by yelling if they got too close, as I could tell my arm and hand were badly hurt and were not able to move away from the steel. I remembered yelling once, maybe twice, before the cutting was over.

Tammy confirmed all of these memories for me. As I told her of my injuries and how my recovery was progressing, she told me about my groin injuries, and how she knew that they were very bad. She said that as soon as they were able to get me onto a flat board, my knees went straight up into the air again…like a chair position. To hear it over the phone from a stranger whose voice I knew so well, I was almost speechless. She told me about the short stop in the ambulance and then them putting me into the helicopter to be transported to the trauma center.

She wished me luck, again told me how nice it was to hear my voice like this “instead of the last time [she] heard it”, and suddenly we were off the phone. I was alone again in my house.

My body started to shake and I hyperventilated for a good half hour. I called a friend of mine who had visited me in the hospital and used every ounce of energy not to sob into his voicemail asking him to call me back. And then I did sob, for what seemed like for days, but was certainly hours and hours. All of a sudden what happened to me was real. Before that, it was just a bunch of weird memories that were surreal. Yet, through speaking with someone who was there…someone who could tell me things that I didn’t remember but knew were true…it all of a sudden brought all of those memories into one large horror movie...a real-life documentary.

For days after I talked to Tammy I felt grateful and afraid. I was very grateful that I knew more of the truth of what happened, not to mention being able to say thank you to the person who kept me conscious while they were there all those hours. But I was also having horrific flashbacks that I could not stop. One minute I was playing games on Facebook, the next I was flying through the air and feeling sand get into my hair and having that general feeling of being in a dryer.

Speaking to Tammy changed me forever. And although I may sound like I regret it…after all, before her I wasn’t scared or anything like that…I don’t regret it at all. I finally understood the horror on an emotional level that all of those who loved me went through. She gave me perspective that perhaps before our conversation I was not ready for, but I without a doubt needed to have. I still owe her more gratitude than exists in the world. There have been many times throughout this journey where I have re-read this brief story about Tammy, and it continues to do what it did that first day: jolt me into the correct perspective. This woman, this stranger, she saved me…and then returned once more to my life to help move me into the next phase of my recovery.

She is definitely (as my mother call's them) one of my Angels.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Accident...Part IV: Oh My Goodness, That's YOU!

I will admit that I was reeling after I wrote yesterday's post. A few of you have sent me private messages to let me know you felt the same, and I appreciate that. I really do. In fact, let me take a moment to say how much I appreciate all of the messages of support and encouragement that I have received from everyone. You have been amazing...particularly since I really didn't think anyone would find my blabbering the least bit interesting.

But let's get back to the story.

When we last left our hero (I am not a hero, I know, but it just sounds so cool to write it like that...), I was being life-flighted to a trauma center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Turns out that I had crashed in Santa Rosa. To this day, I am still a bit unsure where that is, though I can tell you from memory that I had passed a sign on the freeway not long before the crash happened which said, "Tucumcari 80-something miles". So apparently its roughly an hour outside of Tucumcari. The only reason I happened to know Tucumcari, apart from its peculiar and rather fun-to-say name, is that I had stayed there in the truck stop overnight on my first trip across country. Small world.

I slipped in and out of consciousness in the Emergency Room once they got me to St. Vincent's Regional Medical Center. I don't remember arriving, but I can recall being X-rayed everywhere, CAT-scanned, and I think I even had an MRI...though I can't be sure of it. I remember authorizing the police officer, a very polite and gentle man, to take my blood so they could rule out any alcohol or drug influences as a cause of the crash (and for you who are wondering: I was clean on both counts). I hazily remember the nice man who gave me my stitches on my face...several of them, in fact.


I don't remember, however, a picture that I took while I was in the ER. I think I might have done it accidentally, but then again, it's hard to do such a thing with an iPhone camera. Either way, I am glad I have it because no one ever took another picture of my face until I was back to normal...and it's a good reminder of what someone looks like after an airbag punches you in the face.

My injuries, as you probably have guessed, were very substantial. Funny enough, I had not broken my left arm, as I had thought while I was trapped in the van. Instead, I had separated my left shoulder, bruised that arm right to the bone, and had a nice clean laceration that was just as deep.

I had severed the tendons in 3 of my fingers on my left hand, which is why I couldn't feel or move them while I was trapped. I suffered a closed-head injury, but no bleeding was found (thankfully). Instead, I was just monitored for signs of damage...which showed up a few weeks later...when talking was easier. As a side note, brain injuries are many times silent and difficult to find, particularly in high-level communicators like myself. I have learned a lot about them since my accident, and the biggest thing I have learned is to accept it. I realize that I may never be the same person I was mentally, and if that's the case...well, I'll be alright.

Finishing off the list...I severely injured both groins, and last but not least, crushed my L4 and L5 vertebrae, along with significantly dislocating the next 6. I could breathe on my own, but I was unable to move from the chest down.

My mother was notified by my girlfriend, the one who's husband was in the crash with me. I cannot imagine the feeling she must have felt. Something along the lines of having all of the wind knocked out of her sounds like it's on the right track. But my mother is an insane force of rational thinking. It has been the one thing that has saved her through all of the horrible experiences she has gone through in her life. So when the news came, she called my brother and got on a plane as soon as she could. The only image I can give you (which is actually insanely accurate) is a scene from the movie Steel Magnolias: the scene where Sally Field is walking into the hospital because her daughter has just slipped into a coma. The scene shows her walking alone, her footsteps very deliberate and quick, and her face frozen in a look of readiness and panic simultaneously.

My brother was in Thailand at the time, and did not get my mother's call until the next day or so. My memory is that he jumped on the next flight to come be with my mother and I. Once my brother arrived, my mother could finally express herself...letting out her sadness, worry, anger, and helplessness...every emotion that seems to overwhelm you during a crisis. And my brother, bless his heart, was able to stand and be strong for her. That is something I can never thank him enough for because even though I didn't mean to cause anyone...particularly my mother...this worry and suffering, I couldn't be the one to give her even an ounce of comfort. But he did...he did that among other noteworthy things.

My mother arrived on the day of my back surgery. I don't really remember the first week of my hospital stay. I was really drugged and moreover I was in such pain that I was either being given something to knock me out, or I was screaming and sobbing. Before and after the surgery, I couldn't move my legs on my own. I could wiggle my toes on my right foot, but my left was completely unresponsive (it remained so for an entire month before it started to show signs of movement).

The day after my back surgery, I had my left-hand fingers (tendons) repaired. This left me in a large cast which was to stay on for a month so that the tendons could heal. After that I was in a splint for another 2-weeks while I underwent intense occupational therapy on my hand. I can tell you, amidst all of these tales of pain and suffering, that the pain I endured while they stretched my tendons that had healed in the cast rivaled everything I felt with my back. Yes...everything. It was indescribable.

My fourth day in the hospital (I think), which was the first day that I had no surgeries scheduled, I can remember a bit. I remember loads of flowers in my room. I remember my mother telling me that I was not to talk on the phone anymore because I was not making sense most of the time. I remember the pain...not because I can remember what the hurt felt like...but because I remember it being so severe and unbearable that I needed (and had) one of those self-dosing IVs where I just needed to push a button, and it would give me the juice (up to every 16-minutes). I also remember screaming for my mother and brother to help move my legs every 5-10 minutes because they would start to hurt and I couldn't do it myself. It was a bad scene.

I have a memory of one night after my surgeries when I was having horrible nightmares and was in an incredible amount of pain. I remember that I was half out of it and was screaming and sobbing, calling for my mother. This CNA came in, one whom I liked in general up until this point, and he told me (verbatim), "Honey, you're making too much noise, so I am going to have to shut your door. You need to quiet down".

My mother was so pissed off when I told her this the next day, I swear I saw fire come out of her ears. My mother is an administrator in a healthcare system, so she is fully aware of what is acceptable care and what isn't (which is nice because I wasn't really able to advocate for myself at that time). The short of it is that we never saw that CNA again...ever. Apparently I wasn't the first person he had treated like that. [sigh] So atrocious.

Anyway, soon after that we started to notice that I was losing the slight mobility I had gained from my initial back surgery. I don't think I need to tell you how scared that made all of us. My doctors whipped me down for a CAT-scan and spinal tap to figure out what was up. Now, I do remember the pain of that day. For starters, they had to roll me over, which hurt like hell with my broken back and the after-effects of its surgical repair. And then there was the spinal tap itself, which anyone who has had one can tell you, is pain that you would wish on no one. And because my luck is nonexistent at times, the first round wasn't successful, so I had to go through it again. Flipping back and forth, another spinal tap, etc. Only this time, the liquid which they shot into my back broke through a blocked area and went down and to the right...towards my hip. I won't ever forget that. I howled like there was no tomorrow.

Before I go on, let me tell you something good about that experience. There was a very kind nurse (actually, there were several very kind nurses who cared for me during my stay) who took me down to the CAT-scan room. She introduced me to the woman who was administering the CAT-scan, who was also incredibly sweet. And when she (the nurse who came with me) asked if I needed anything, I remember asking her if she would stay with me because I was afraid. I am positive she had other things to do, but she took my hand and said, "of course". She stayed with me the entire time. It was people like her that got me through days like that.

After I howled and they found that there was a blockage (I do not know the medical terms well enough to relate them here), I was zipped back to my room and then almost immediately prepped for emergency surgery. The surgeons were going to gently loosen the rod that was placed in my back to realign all of the dislocated vertebrae, as this was the assumed cause for my growing paralysis. 

It worked. I had no other surgeries after that.

Once I was out of the woods, probably the fifth or sixth day or so, my brother went to find my U-Haul and figure out where things stood with my belongings. Another long story short, he took some pictures of the original U-Haul as he found it, and some pictures of the stuff as he unloaded it. I lost almost everything--all my furniture, my computers, dishes, my grill--a tremendous amount of stuff, gone. Then my brother, generously and without request, rented another U-Haul, loaded up everything that he could salvage, and made a plan to drive back to Maine with my things. It was an unbelievable gift considering the amount of money he had already spent because of this accident (hey, flights from Thailand to Santa Fe, NM are not cheap on a day's notice). And though my mother was still frail and feared him leaving her, he assured her it would be OK and left the next day...making the trip in 4 days. The remnants of all of my belongings, whatever he was able to load up into the new U-Haul (i.e. if the box was still intact or if he could chuck it into one of the bins he bought at the local Target), are in my mother's basement. To top it all off, when it was time for me to leave the hospital, he paid for my first-class ticket, along with my mother's, so that I could sit in a more comfortable seat. I figure I have used up all of my Christmas gift money from him until at least 2032.

My mother stayed with me until the 10th day, and then she had to return to work. It was more than emotional for both of us when she left. I had arranged for a dear friend of mine to come and stay with me beginning the day that she left, so that I would not be alone. And interestingly enough, though I was miles and miles away from anyone I knew, and although I spent a total of 6-weeks in the hospital, I was alone for 1 week at the very end. It is still very surreal to me that I was so lucky in that regard.

A day or so before my mother left, one of my favorite CNAs came into the room to help me bathe. She had done this several times, and I was very comfortable with her. As she walked to the bathroom, she abruptly stopped and looked at a picture collage I had received from a friend and hung on the bathroom door. She was doing double takes, looking at me then the picture then at me again. Suddenly she burst out, "Oh my goodness! That's YOU!".

I was totally shocked and my mother just laughed. I couldn't put the pieces together until suddenly I said, "Ohhhh! The swelling in my face has gone down, right?". It all made sense. Of course they wouldn't know what I truly looked like. Boy, was I glad I had taken (accidental or not) that horrible picture of my face in the ER. Just having something to compare my face to as a before and after allowed me to feel better.

I was in the hospital for 2-weeks in total, and then I was transferred to the inpatient rehab...also part of the hospital...just a different section more focused on physical therapy and recovery. I spent 4-weeks there, one of the longest inpatient patients the rehab had housed. I watched many of my fellow "inmates" come and go, and that was hard for me on many levels. But I had great staff to help me through everything, and in the end, I was ready to go after 4 hard weeks of work.

There is so much more that I could tell you all about my recovery in the hospital. I could talk about my friendships that are still strong today with my physical therapists, or I could talk about learning to walk again, or learning to go to the bathroom on my own (hey...it was part of my journey). But in the end, I think I have hit the high points.

I will say this much though. I was not prepared to leave the hospital. You see, when I was in my accident, I was in the process of moving. So to go home for me was to return to LA and my bed and my room...none of which existed any more. And even though I had thought about that many times and had said to myself, "I'm ready"; I was not. It was very difficult to acclimate myself to a new house while trying to acclimate myself to my new self...a person who moves primarily via wheelchair. That process took a few weeks, in all honesty, and I can't say that I didn't yearn for the familiarity of the hospital more than once during that time. I had entered their doors a broken mess, but in my mind, able to walk and do all of the things I (frankly) took for granted. When I left, I left in a wheelchair, and I couldn't even stand for a long period of time.

One day, I stopped in front of the floor-length mirror in my mother's room. I was recalling the incident with the CNA who did the double take and realized it was me in the picture. I realized that I was doing the same thing. I was looking at this image, this person in the mirror, and I was suddenly saying out loud, "Oh my goodness. That's you".

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Accident...Part III: Breathe

We have all heard about people who smash into buildings because they hit the wrong pedal or whatever. To be perfectly honest, I have been really hard on those people in my judgment of their abilities to drive. I mean, you're in your car that you drive all the time...most of the time we're on autopilot anyway while we're driving. We know how it feels to be on the brake instead of the gas or clutch or whatever. A person knows subconsciously how it feels when they put their feet in certain places while driving their car. So how is it possible that someone would inadvertently hit the gas instead of the break?

I don't have an answer to that question. I still actually feel that way to a certain extent because of the reasoning I gave above: the familiarity of your vehicle and the driving on autopilot thing. But I will say this: I have learned what it feels like when it happens, and it's pretty damn scary.

If you've been following along, you'll remember that I had just moved over onto the side of the road to miss whatever silver flash it was that darted in front of us. It was actually quite smooth, all things considered, and there was an exceptionally wide berth as luck would have it. In another life, I would not have given this incident any secondary thought because it did go so smoothly...and safely.

But just as I was about to move back onto the road (I had checked the random traffic around me and all was clear), an unexpected twist in the safety of our position occurred. Apparently I had moved over just as the guard rail split, and I didn't notice. I mean, it's not like I was busy thinking, "hey...where's the guard rail? Shouldn't there be a guard rail?". No. I mean, who does that?

So there I was in my 17' fully-loaded U-Haul van...in the middle of a guardrail split...and unfortunately, and unbeknownst to me, over just a little too far. For all of a sudden, at what seemed to be 100 miles an hour, the guardrail was coming straight for us. And not straight in the middle either. That I might have been able to move around. No. It was coming at me, which in the split second I had to sum things up, meant that if I made a mad dash for the freeway's edge, that guard rail would most certainly impale my passenger like a piece of chicken on a kabob.

I had no choice (assuming I didn't want man-kabob that day) but to head the other way...into the field adjacent to the freeway.

Now, if you have ever been in that part of the country (or in any desert-type of land) you know that its flat. Really flat. So if you were in a predicament like mine, heading over into the field to come to a stop and regroup wasn't a bad option. And as I considered the alternative, it was clearly my only option.

It all would have been fine except for one thing, and you've probably already guessed it: the gas pedal. Yep. I started hammering on what I thought to be the break as we jumped off the freeway altogether and into the field...except it wasn't the break at all. And my brain freaked out trying to understand why we were speeding up instead of stopping...because, after all, I was certain that I was on the break. Certain.

Of course I started screeching at the top of my lungs for my partner to wake up. Something was wrong with the truck...the brakes won't stop...we're going faster instead! Imagine what his face must have looked like, if you can stomach it. I can still see it, plain as day. Pure panic is the only word to describe it. He was immediately screaming at me, "What are you doing?", as I kept screeching about how I couldn't stop and how I didn't know what to do.

I finally glanced down to confirm the position of my feet, and I was horrified to see the brake sitting on the other side of my foot untouched. But I didn't have time to say to myself, "You idiot", or anything stronger. I had no time because even though I was now truly slamming on the brake, there was real danger. We were going really fast in a field in the desert...in the middle of nowhere.

And then I saw it. I saw a huge culvert...one of those metal things that you play in as a kid...one that allows the water to run through underneath your driveway or roads. This one, being where it was, was large enough for cows to go through. This all would have been fine if we weren't travelling at what seemed to be the speed of light and also straight at a huge embankment. So huge, I'm sorry to say, that there was no hope of going around or over. We both knew, a few loooong seconds before it happened, that we were going to hit this thing head on.

For those of you that don't know: earth is like concrete when its compact like that embankment was. The only thing that would have been stronger would have been a rock-cliff. 

I remember turning my wheel to the right just as we hit. After that, it was like being in your dryer on the tumble-dry cycle...and that tumbling went on for a notable amount of time...with dirt being splashed in my hair and face as we continued to crash. I don't know if I remember coming to a stop or if I was just knocked out. I just know that it was suddenly over.

My memory of the experience after the crash is in pieces. My first memory is of me asking myself, "am I dead", followed by, "am I hurt"? I couldn't answer either question at first. It was dark and silent, and I couldn't move, so I wasn't too sure about the answers. But I eventually realized that my left arm was hurt, so I was probably not dead, and that I was severely trapped because I could only move my right lower leg and my right arm.

Then I heard my partner yelling my name. I tried to inhale enough air to yell back, but breathing was ferociously difficult. So I answered as loud as I could, telling him that I was stuck. I also heard other voices. Good Samaritans were already on the scene! Amazing! I knew there were cars on the road at the time; I had seen them. But because I was trapped in the dark, I didn't remember that it had been sunrise and that people probably saw the whole thing happen.

I have no idea to this day who the people were who stopped. I do know that they were among the first people who saved me. And I know if they weren't there to help my friend, he could not have helped me...and that I would have died as a result. I owe them my deepest thanks. Hopefully one day they will come across this post and know I am speaking of them.

I can remember being stuck so tight...my knees above my breasts and pinned to my chest...nothing able to move except my right lower leg and my right arm. My left arm felt like it was broken and my fingers on my left hand wouldn't move. I remember being able to see them (my left arm and fingers) because there was a small tear--for lack of better words--in the metal on the side of the van and a shimmer of light...light which was getting brighter as the desert sun rose...was able to get through. I could just see a peek of the desert floor.

My seat had somehow, after the airbag punched me in the face, slammed me down under the steering wheel (which actually turned out to be up under the steering column into the "innards" of the truck), with my seatbelt still on me. It hurt to breathe...it was so tight and so small a space. I vividly remember thinking that I must manage my breathing because I knew, knew that if I didn’t...if I panicked...I might die. And that realization, my friends, is a tough one to understand and still not panic.

To tell you the truth, I don’t know how I did it (the breathing thing) for as long as I did. Some sort of survival mechanism living inside me took over, one which I cannot remember and certainly haven’t been able to recall to my aid since. Apparently its only available in real life or death situations. Hmmm. Too bad...I can think of many times when I could have used that special resolve/strength/whatever.

Anyway...

As you might have understood from the description above, the van had ended up on its side, the driver's side to be exact. My passenger, just to answer everyone's burning question, broke nothing. He bruised everything: bones, organs, etc., but he did not break or seriously injure anything...physical. Through his aching pain (because bruised bones are pain like the devil, as anyone who's had them will tell you), he was able to climb out and back in and dig me out of the mass of our suitcases and whatnot...since everything that did not go flying out the windows ended up on top of where I was, at the bottom of the pile, under the steering column.

The van had a third seat in the middle...one of those half seats you see in many cars and trucks. I can remember, as we waited for the first police officer to arrive, the Good Samaritan and my driving partner trying with all their might to pull that seat out. We were all thinking that if they could move it, perhaps I would then have room enough to escape. Unfortunately, the seat wouldn't budge, and the weight of the men was only something I could tolerate for a limited time (remember now...the van was on its side, so they had to step on places that were on top of me).

I remember a police officer was finally on the scene and told me that emergency crews were on their way. I remember hearing the emergency crews arrive on scene. I am pretty sure that I did not stay conscious the entire time because there are some gaps in my memory. I remember that the jaws of life was engaged because they could not get me out easily. I also remember one incident when they (the crew members...no idea which ones) were relatively near me outside the van, and they were arguing about which way was best or something...I only remember that they were arguing. And I got so frustrated at that moment that I pulled in as much air as I could tolerate and yelled at them to, "stop arguing near me and help me"! 

I'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the emergency crews who saved me. They were exceptional. Yet, a note to all emergency crew members out there: don't argue near those who are trapped. It makes them panic because you appear as though you have no clue what you're doing...and let's face it...you're supposed to be the heroes who save the day. Not people who need time to figure out how to get along.

I remember that they asked me to chuck anything I could out that small hole...the one that was providing me light. This was so that they could get some idea of where I was. I didn't know it at the time, but no one could see me. I was shoved so far up and in such a weird spot. The crews eventually used a saw to rip open the van, listening to me in case they got too close (which happened only once or twice...near my left hand).

I was trapped, in total, for just about 4 hours before being freed. I remember them ripping open the van and a bunch of light pouring in...and a huge, yellow fireman's hat was coming through...a friendly face with it. I do not remember how my extraction all happened exactly, but I remember feeling as though I was at a rock concert because there were so many hands under me. First 4, then 8, then 12. All supporting me and lifting me out of the space that may have been my tomb had things gone differently.

I was in an ambulance for a short stint. I don't remember much. I don't remember seeing my driving partner at that time. I don't remember (though I was told by a trusted source...one that I will talk about later) that when they put me on the flat board, my knees went straight up into the air, as close to my chest as they would go. It took a considerable sedative to relax me enough so that my legs could be strapped down.

One of last things I remember about being on scene is the sound of the helicopter starting up. They brought me over to it and were strapping me in, and I remember, very distinctly, being afraid. And just as the last strap was being tightened and the sedative was really starting to do its job to relax me, the EMT leaned in and said gently, "You're gonna be fine now. Just breathe".

I was out like a light.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Accident...Part II: Clairvoyance and The Effect of Animals

I do not claim myself to be clairvoyant. I am not opposed to the concept...in fact I would say I wholeheartedly believe that some people have this ability. I certainly do not have any gifts toward that end. However, during the time whilst making decisions about my method of moving across country (do I buy a car and put stuff in storage? do I go for it with a large U-Haul?), I was haunted by daydreams of a car crash in which my dog died.

These daydreams, if you could call them that, were more like in the back of my head, really…not something that I envisioned in front of me...and they felt like jolts of screaming anxiety. They felt like jolts, that is, unless I allowed myself to drift off and really see the manifestation of one of my deepest fears (i.e. watching a beloved pet die in front of me), then I was outright freaked for a good while...to the point of needing medication at times.

The nightmare (isn't it really a daymare if its in the day?) consisted of me all alone, driving a forest-green, Jeep Cherokee-type vehicle on some stretch of desert highway, when suddenly and without warning, there is a loud crash and my dog, Jasper, is going through the windshield. Even now I can see it, and it makes me shudder, fight tears away, and most certainly feel that same jolt of anxiety I felt back then whenever I had the thought.

Nowadays, when I am feeling rather than thinking, I often feel/think I was seeing an alternate path to this same destiny, as I tend to believe there are several routes we choose to take, for good or bad, to lead us to the same significant destined points in our lives. Kind of like how we can drive 5 different ways to get to the grocery store, but in the end they all lead to the store. One route might take you through a neighborhood with beautiful mansions, while another may be just a quiet country road, and a third takes you through a ghetto with people accosting your vehicle at every stoplight. Anyway, I think I happened to see that one particular "route" so clearly, that I was able to avoid its scene entirely; yet regardless of this, like I said, a different route can still lead to the same destiny.

But like I said, I am not clairvoyant, so what do I know of alternate paths and whatnot? I can tell you that the ultimate “rationalization” was that the pets would be a nuisance whether I was in a car or a U-Haul; thus, it only made sense for me to fly them home and drive on without them in the mix. I did the flying adventure with 3 pets across the continent, inclusive of 2 stops. Poor things. We made the mad-dash journey on September 16th, and I stayed for 5 days to acclimate them to my mother’s home; the place to which we were all headed until I could successfully change my working relationship with the company in Cambridge from a highly-used consultant to full-time employee, at which time my moving to Massachusettes would be a sure thing.

The acclimation process was nothing for the animals. The outside temperature was still rather mild and the cats at least were super psyched to have a larger house in and with which to raise havoc. Looking back, I think the acclimation process should be described as me standing between my mother and my animals, particularly the cats, who were clearly going to ruin her house and the life of her 100-year old, deaf as a polk cat, Liz.

I remember being incredibly sad the day before I was to go back to California. I wasn’t going to see my pets for 3-weeks. My mother, whether it was a serious comment or an attempt to make me forget my sadness, kept repeating that it would be the longest 3-weeks of her life. Yeah, bet she wouldn’t have said that had she known what was to come.

I sobbed the day I left my mom’s to go back to Cali. Mostly because Jasper, as we shut him (and the cats who didn’t mind at all) in the cellar for the day,  was giving me a look as though I was coldheartedly abandoning him there. Because Jasper was my only consistent companion over the last 8-years, I knew those looks well (just as he knew how to give them to me in an effort to guilt me...crafty dog). And as I walked up the stairs to the car, and ultimately made the trek across country that day, there were no words to describe the heaviness of my journey...particularly because I knew that there would be no life in my home when I returned.

As I said in Part I of this story, we set out on Monday the 28th in the afternoon. My partner drove the first shift, and I did my best to get some sleep, though it wasn't easy...I was too excited and hey, it was the middle of the day. But somehow sleep found me on and off between stops for gas, etc., until finally, at approximately 4 in the morning, my partner was ready to call it quits.

He had found a nice truck stop for the exchange. One in which there was a place for me to wash up and change my clothes...a clean place no less. I got myself all ready for the coming day (teeth and hair brushed, face washed, new clothes, the works), and left with some breakfast munchies and a ginormous, yummy coffee.

I climbed into the U-Haul, this time on the driver's side, and took a deep breath. I remembered my inital reaction when I had went to get the van in the first place, which was something along the lines of, "this is such a bad idea". But I kept telling myself that those were just the nervous thoughts of someone who had never driven a vehicle such as this, and that if I thought about it rationally, I would see the obvious: that everything was going to be just fine. I was going to be driving on stretches of freeway which were pretty much straight and uncrowded. I-40 through New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma is all pretty much like that, I recalled to myself from memories of my last 2 trips on that stretch of road.

So I was as confident as I could be as I pulled onto the freeway in the dark at 4:30ish in the morning on September 29th.  We were just outisde of Albequerque, Mew Mexico., and my partner, who had been driving now for a very long time, went straight to sleep.

There's one thing I have come to know about our great nation's landscape: sunrises and sunsets are wonderful in New Mexico and Colorado. I drove for about an hour and a half before the sunrise I was hoping to see showed up. It was so beautiful that it could make your heart sing, so I hung my iPhone out the window of the Van and snapped a few pictures as best I could without aiming. This picture was the only one I actually took, and it doesn't even come close to what was there that day. And even so, its still really beautiful, isn't it?  It was the last sunrise I was to see for weeks.

It may or may not be obvious, but the sunrise wasn't what led to the accident. It was, as you may have guessed, an animal. It wasn't my dog because he wasn't there...instead it was a flash of silver hair...a fox or a hare perhaps. Instinctually I moved out of the way (which is to say that I "swerved", except you don't really swerve in a fully-loaded 17' U-Haul...you move/glide over) and onto the shoulder. I moved over smoothly and without injury to the animal.

Looking back I realize that at that exact moment, the moment when I swerved to miss the silver animal in the road, my "different route"...the route that I had chosen to take so that Jasper would not be killed in an accident...had just found its intersection to the same destiny I was always to reach.

I realize in my times of reflection that yes, I did save Jasper's life. There's no question that neither he, nor my cats would have survived that crash. But as I sit here using hindsight I realize that I failed to recognize something very obvious in that recurring daydream/nightmare. I had failed to pay attention to the recurring thought of an accident on a stretch of highway that looked just like this one.

And now here I was...

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Accident...Part I: Prior To

I want to be methodical about the religious organizations about which I will be learning. I think it will help me. I don't know why...just do. So before I start diving into the details about my first choice, I have decided that I want to tell the tale of my accident. I shall organize the story into parts so that it isn't a ridiculously long post that no one has the time to read in one sitting; however, it is likely that each part won't be lickety-split short either.

I can remember almost everything about the accident itself, which I have come to find in my non-scientific analysis, becomes rarer with the severity of the injuries and accident. Something about the mind not wanting to remember is a big part of it, so I am told. Hmmm. Well, that’s not me, and I think it’s safe to say that my accident and injuries were both pretty damn severe, and I damn-well don’t want to remember any of it.

But I get ahead of myself. So typical.

To begin we must go back 14 months to mid-February 2009. I like to title this part "To Stay or Not to Stay...Not Really a Question". And yes, I am aware that I still have issues with appropriate titles, this being no exception. Nevertheless, this title does sum up the situation.
 
I actually started packing up the house in February and March, thinking that I was going to move back to my beloved San Diego—at least for a while anyway. My LA-based consulting business was really slowing down, and the rent on my house was becoming almost impossible to manage on my own. Unfortunately a roommate wasn't an option because I needed an office for tax purposes and well, because I needed an office.
 
Some additional background on me: I was diagnosed with clinical depression a long time ago. I periodically write about my experiences @ www.youparttwo.com, a site dedicated to eating disorder recovery and self-esteem issues (a project initiated by a dear friend of mine).
 
Moving on...
 
To be fair, my mom and a girlfriend of mine did most of the packing for me back then. I was so lost in a deep depression during that time period I couldn’t get the job done. Actually, I couldn’t even help myself off the couch or out of the bedroom. So we (they) packed away the things that I didn’t need to live, which when you look at your house, isn't a whole heck of a lot. You can get by with minimal stuff in your kitchen, none of your pictures (or certainly very few because, let's face it, pictures are important for many reasons, but they are not necessary when it comes to say, eating or sleeping), and none of the library of books on your shelves. In short, you can simplify a great deal from the mass collection of things you have to have surrounding and available to you “just in case”.

Just as I was more or less ready to go, I received a jolt in my consulting business in LA and became busy again. Well, busy enough to pay for the basics (food, pets, rent, gas). I was engaged in projects at this level (i.e. just busy enough) for the entire summer.

My plan in March had been to move into my condo in Del Mar (an investment property I had with another girlfriend of mine) and stay there until we could sell it. Our tenant of 4-years had moved out as of March 1, so the timing was perfect. However, my plans changed and I didn't go, and we sold the condo in late Spring, leaving me with no living-arrangement "safety-net".

Because of this, I knew I needed to start pressing my contacts for opportunities...and this time for an in-house position with benefits, etc. After all this time as an independent, I was ready to return to corporate structure for some work stability. But to get this I had to step it up, depression or no depression. That was when I, once again with the help of one of my most trusted mentor‘s assistance, found a lead that ultimately led to the decision to leave Southern California for New England.

Without getting lost in the details, let me just simply say that I was heading to my Mom's house to stay for a bit while I began a consulting gig with a company in Cambridge, MA. The idea was that as my projects and workload grew with the company, my working relationship with the company would change from consultant to employee when the workload made sense. 

Background: A well-qualified business efficiency professional, whether in-house or as a consultant, can boost the productivity and revenue of an organization’s business by a significant percentage. Most, if not all, top executives know this--whether it is feasible for them to engage a person who performs such an intangible service to the organization is another thing entirely, as these professionals often do not come at a bargain-basement price and can be difficult to justify because of the nature of their position in the workplace. This work is precisely what I do in my consulting practice, and to put it simply, I am rather good at what I do, especially for the rates I charge.  

That said, I was excited that the company was excited about me. It's always a great feeling to know you are a good match for the work that awaits you and that you will enjoy it.

So, once the house was final-cleaned and everything packed, donated, or chucked to the curb, we were set to go.

Now, as I made logistical plans to go across country, I knew it would not be safe for me to travel alone, as a woman. This would be my third time across in a car; the first trip included two male friends and myself; the second time I drove alone with a cat, but dressed in my brother's clothes and stayed in hotels each night. Therefore, being a bit seasoned in the task at hand, I felt it was best for me to have a male companion with me for a few reasons: (1) I was driving a 17' U-Haul Van, not a car...a different animal entirely, and one I was not all that comfortable with, though I had no choice in the matter; (2)The trip time would be cut in half because one of us could sleep while the other one drove, stopping only when we were both exhausted and needed a real break. (At that rate, I figured, we might make it in 4-5 days); (3) I knew that U-Hauls are easy targets for thefts because of their very purpose (they haul around your possessions, some of which are valuable, and most of which can be used by others), so it was a good idea to have a male companion to show that there were two of us in the car, and one was definitely a male. Not a full-proof deterrent, obviously, but a smart precaution nonetheless; and (4) if something happened in the back of the van or whatever...something that required heavy lifting and/or small mechanical abilities...I was not the candidate for these tasks at all.

So I started my search for a male companion.

Though I had a few in my mind that would certainly fit the bill, the person I decided to ask first said yes and ultimately came with me. He was the husband of the same girlfriend who helped me pack the house in March and then again in September.

Though he and I weren't exactly the best of friends, this was certainly a killer opportunity for us to become closer, which would ultimately make our three-way relationship (his wife, him, and I) better. I was certain that we would emerge from this experience with a new relationship that both of us would be able to name "friends" and really mean it.

And it was as if my choice was fortuitously correct. Not only did he agree with the on/off/stop plan for driving across the country, but his sister lived just about where we thought we would need to stop and really rest. Perfect.

We were to leave as soon as possible on Monday, September 28th, 2009, which ended up being right around 3 pm. Perfect timing for a one-last time traffic jam on the 210 East coming out of Pasadena. As you can see I decided not to memorialize that image, but instead grabbed a good one of the smog on my beloved San Gabriel Mountains...

The mountains...and also myself in my favorite of favorite hats. I sure do miss that hat, come to think of it.









Thursday, April 22, 2010

Backtracking...Just for a Second

I've been thinking about my last post off and on...mostly on. Something about it has been nagging at me, and I needed to figure out how to get over myself before I could continue on my path. You see, I have another burning question (a concern, perhaps...I don't know) in my mind. You know the type...the questions that you fear to ask yourself...those to which you already know the answer and can only admit to yourself way down deep. Should I ask myself this question aloud, it's really placing the mirror up in front of my face to look deep within. Speaking honestly, I don't know if I can do such a thing in this forum. It leaves me so exposed.

But then again, isn't that type of introspection something I should do freely and fiercely on this journey to find peace? [big sigh]

I suppose I could argue the whereto's and whyfor's for days and still circle back to this very spot. The reality is that I need to get over myself and come out with it here in bloggerverse. [gulp] So here it is: I am unsure I was fair to myself in my last post. I need to backtrack to something I said...something on the topic of selfishness.

My issue is this: I can't seem to get past the thought that I may of been a bit hard on myself on Monday. I'm not saying that I am changing my mind about my opinions...I do feel that it is a selfish thing to look the gift of life in the face. And I mean, c'mon. I do not have it that bad. I can breathe and will walk again normally one day.

But I do suffer, sometimes terrifically, and I think to take away from that is to short myself a bit. It minimizes what I am going through, and that, I believe, is unfair. So I needed to come back and set the record straight for my own self. To show compassion to myself...something which many of us, me included, have a hard time doing even when it should be easy.

Compassion is a wonderful trait that we humans possess, and we are capable of such greatness with it. I just wonder why we fail so miserably to show ourselves the same boundless compassion we show others.

With that in mind, I forgive myself for my harshness and educate my inner self that it is OK to be upset and unhappy when I am suffering. After all, it would not be suffering if I wasn't miserable to a certain extent, right?

Moving on.

In case you're wondering about how my search for the SHH (the Spiritual Heavy Hitter...and I'm sorry...but don't you just love that acronym??), I have read a bunch on the NSAC website and will document my thoughts on that group. Obviously my opinions thus far are based on text alone, which I know may not have provided me with enough information to form a well-educated opinion. Nevertheless, we shall see where this road leads.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Survivor Tree

Today is the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. I shamefully didn't remember this until I turned on my favorite CNN news program this morning and watched the live broadcast of a memorial ceremony in Oklahoma City. 168 people died that day, several of them little children in a daycare. It was a sad and scary day in our nation's history.

We remember the dead, and yet there is another side of this tragic coin: the side which includes the countless number of survivors. Yes...I'm always brought back to this topic, like it or not, and this morning was particularly emotional as it was butted up against a very emotional weekend. (More on the weekend shortly).

One of the things I really think we did right in our memorial creation is The Survivor Tree. The tree itself, an American elm, is said to be approximately 103-years old. The story is: it was a coveted area to park because of the shade it provided, yet the tree in general was neglected in its appearance and health. The day of the bombing, the tree sustained heavy damage from the bomb's original blast and further disfigurement as investigators chopped critical evidence out of the tree's branches and bark. The elm was left with little to no branches and a blackened stump, and most thought it was a lost cause. It was only during a memorial service around the tree's base +/- a year later did those around it notice that the tree was blooming once again. And that's how the elm became known as The Survivor Tree.

I like this story a lot. I particularly like the inscription the memorial planners used there: "The spirit of this city and nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us".

Faith. There's that word again. I do not deny my hearty agreement with its sentiment. I know that we are sustained by deep rooted beliefs in times of hardship. Even non-believers are believers at such times. From my own personal experience I cannot discount the power of prayer because I was the object of so much of it for so long.

With that in mind, there are thousands of people...survivors...who need a prayer said for them today. Just as there are 168 souls that deserve recognition by a moment of silence for each. In whatever way you are able to express yourself, I hope that you will take a moment to send your healing thoughts to these people...people who will never forget how today changed their lives. People who have absolutely gone through what I am going through.

Back to the weekend.

I was pretty darn sick last week, as you may remember. I was literally bedridden through Friday, so when Saturday came, bringing with it a bit of energy, I slothed over to the shower and made myself presentable enough to face the public eye. I went out to the nail salon (my first pedicure since the accident--a milestone that was both strange and painful--and joyful because I could, in fact, endure it). I went to see a movie in the theater in the afternoon too. It was a big day for me to be sure.

I was in some pain when I arrived at home, mostly from the use of my legs and fatigue after a week in bed. I paid heavily for my outing the next day though with more leg pain, cold sweats, and razor-like nerves in my feet--something I can only liken to the sharp tingling feeling when your feet are in between asleep and awake--except mine are perfectly awake; they just have these shooting nerve-razors that...well...suck.

The good news is that I can manage 2 of the 3 ailments I just described to a certain point. I can use Aspercreme on my legs, and my mother can massage my feet to get the blood flowing again and reduce/stop the "nerve-razors". I can't, however, do a thing about the sweats. I can changes shirts, de-shirt, re-shirt. Doesn't matter. The truth is that I simply have to sit here and take it on the chin.

After hours of this, I start to become mentally drained. I know that's probably obvious, but my rate of speed from fine to desperate is pretty fast these days, simply because I have so many days like this. Days where I am not technically sick, so no one can do anything about it. It feels as though I am lost with no map. Perhaps that is exactly what this is.

In times of such despair--times when I simply can no longer be strong and positive--I start to melt emotionally, and like bullets, the questions come: the why questions. Why did I survive? Why do I have to live like this? Why am I so alone with this? Why can't I find a solution to these things that plague me so much? Why????

Yesterday wasn't any different than the other sick days, except that I had a long conversation with God. Yes OK. So that's notably different. Nevertheless I asked pointed questions to God; questions that I find myself now brave enough to ask because I have this project/outlet to help me work through the trauma of my suffering and my fear of religion. 

My first and ultimately most pressing question to God was why he didn't take me and save someone else that day. I asked this in all sincerity and not in vanity. Through my sobs I kept chanting that I was grateful for my gift...the chance for a second life. And I am. I want to live.

My struggle is the inertia of my life. The feeling that I am not living to enough of a degree. I don't know how to describe this except to say that I used to feel more alive than I do now. In my previous environments the power of nature was unavoidable. And I was always able to immerse myself in that beauty by simply going outside.

Intellectually I know that (a) I have been inside rather than outside because I have been in my mother's care in New England in the winter, and (b) my poor body will need more than another year to recover physically before I will be able to go out and do things spontaneously without serious painful consequences. However, as I said, I am struggling with the inertia of my life. I have come to know and understand my adult self as a person who needs nature, a warm climate, and right now I am on many occasion unable to visit even the backyard which awaits me in the sunny, chilly Spring of the Northeast. Looking through the window isn't enough. Not by a long shot.

So my conversation yesterday, which included a tremendous amount of sobbing (sorry about all the sob stories by the way...I hope to focus on other subjects soon enough), started me begging for answer...anything...that would appease me. But you already know what happened, don't you? That's right. I received no insight. No answers. I just got tired, and with that, relaxed.  

And just because that's the way the world works, it was then I started to think clearly rather than desperately. I realized that I feel I am in limbo because I don't know what my life path is yet, and I truly think I would be able to manage this phase of my life if I could find meaning. Yet I sit here day after day struggling to get my head around why I still suffer so intensely, especially when I have already done so mentally for years...much longer than the months I have had to deal with the effects of my accident.

And I cried again with this realization, though not as hard. I have figured out what I was looking for with respect to an "answer". Without knowing how to verbalize it, I was simply looking for a way to be at peace. I know that my life's path is not going to be anything near easy for at least another year. And although I become a puddle of messy emotions on numerous occasions, I am stronger with each passing episode. [sigh] What a crap deal this is.

Before I go, I really want to mention 2 names: P.J. Allen and Chris Nguyen. These two young men, along with many other children, are survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing. I watched them both on CNN today, and both are inspirational. P.J. has asthma so badly that he will never have the "normal" life that many of us (even me, in this condition) take for granted with every breath. Chris has scars to remind him of that terrible day in his life too. And both of them show me how incredibly selfish I am for feeling the way I do sometimes.

These two young men embody our nation's resilience to horrible events. They both have irreversible scars, mental and physical, but both stand in the face of the world (whereas I am in my room in the shroud of a Northeast forest) and defeat fear and find a way to come to grips with why they survived. I heard Chris say (I can't quote because I didn't write it down) that he felt he needed to do something with his life because of the others who never had a chance.

As you know, I am typically unable to even think about others' struggles to survive against tremendous odds...yet, I watched these interviews as tears streamed down my cheeks and thought to myself, "I will endeavor to remember that statement, rather than wonder why God didn't just take me that day". I will keep my eyes out for my purpose in life--the path that right now does not seem to be under my feet. And when I find it, I will also dedicate my life...my determination...to those who did not have a chance.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Search Is On...

I don’t plan to write more than once a day unless it’s important…and this is.

Today I have begun the search for my spiritual heavy-hitter. I have decided that there's nothing to be afraid of here. Well, wait a minute. Let me rephrase that. I have decided on an intellectual level that there is nothing to be afraid of by educating myself about different organized religions and their respective belief systems.

I have no idea how to go about this, and truth be told, I am very afraid. Religion scares me...it always has. Organized anything creates power-mongering, and personally I would prefer to skip getting involved with any of that. Particularly when I am trying to delve into the realm of spirituality.

I have decided that I will start with a random pick from a list of the religious organizations present in my local area. I mean, if I am going to take it to the next step and actually talk with someone affiliated with the organization/religion/whatever, well, they can’t be 2-states away now, can they? Exactly.

I have decided that my first choice will be an organization that I do not recognize by name (though I should clarify that even though I recognize the name, I scarcely know what the differences are between many of them). I have to be true to myself throughout this process…I know this. I am proceeding with an open-mind and open-heart, but I already know that some things will not fly with me. Yet, I am still endeavored to listen and learn about even these areas of organized religion which at present seem, well, overwhelmingly ridiculous.

For example, because I have studied biology and the sciences, I cannot accept metaphoric stories as truth...at least on face value. I admit that I have not studied these subjects to any great academic extent, but I have gained enough knowledge to reasonably and scientifically believe in certain truths.

In addition, I realize that believing in something without tangible proof is a way of defining faith and that faith is what I am hoping to grow as I try to come to grips with my survival. I think it probably will be a valuable tool in that regard. Nevertheless, I never promoted myself as a faithful person to date. I've been very much the opposite actually. And let’s be honest—the only thing to recently change is that I have recently admitted to having real questions about God…and that I am willing to recognize that there is, perhaps, a single source that we can name as "God" (just the word makes me cringe...oh, this is going to be a rough road).

My first organization is the NSAC (National Spiritualism Association of Churches). They have a website, http://www.nsac.org/, and I am delighted to see information that I can read and use to decide if I may want to move towards their local presence.

I guess we’ll know tomorrow…

How To Spell The Sound of a Silent Scream...

I promise to get better at the title thing...really.

This one is actually NOT that far off the mark. It was between this one and "I Can't Sleep". Perhaps you're wondering if either one of these is truly relevant to the task at hand. Well, I figure I am going to have days like these...days when I need to talk about something that may or may not be tangent to my project's true focus.

I can't sleep these days. It's true. Simply put: whenever I shut off the light I have this haunting image in my head that someone is going to come down the hallway. My stomach is in knots over a lingering silhouette in my doorway. For the record, I have no further thought of what said person would or could do to those of us sleeping here (thank goodness), so let's not go down that path. My overactive imagination clearly does not need a new level of terror to explore.

But let's come back in a minute to my man in the doorway syndrome.

For now I want to describe the chosen title's relevance. You see, as I sit here in the wee hours of the dark (I honestly don't even start to feel sleepy until 2-ish at this point), I watch TV. I realize that my folly may be right there...that I am unable to fall asleep because my brain is so stimulated by the television, and that reading a book would perhaps facilitate the falling asleep process much better. BUT, it's not that I don't get tired and that I can't sleep in the technical sense. I can, and I do. It's that somewhere in my brain is this random fear of the man in the doorway, and as I reach over to turn out the bedside lamp, a wave of panic ensues. From there I have very little success sitting in the dark waiting for sleep to overtake me...even though my dog is here with me, and I am not alone in the house. But again, I'll come back to the man in the doorway. Obviously there is more to say about him.

One thing I do while watching TV (day or night) is to cruise the channel guide to see what is on and coming on. I do it constantly, as though the entries were going to somehow change from 10-minutes ago when I last performed my run through. Its a bit OCD frankly. I typically settle on movies or documentary-type programming. 

Last night, as I made my repeated "rounds" on the channel guide, instead of seeing the same results over and over again, it actually appeared as though something was changing each time (though in reality it was simply that I was reading the programming description more closely on certain channels as I went by). And to my horror, I found the same subject being examined in different programs; I think there must have been 3 within a 2.5 hour timeframe last night. Perhaps some of you have already guessed the subject...?

Of course it was that of survival against the odds. I'm cursed by it at the moment...why wouldn't it plague me? I don't mind telling you that it was entirely annoying to select a channel more than once to then discover that they were reviewing a subject that I cannot go near at the moment. And it was on the third instance, when there was nothing else that I wanted to watch, I let out a silent, but powerful (and long-winded) scream of frustration.

And then--because it makes absolutely no sense and that's my life--my exhaustion and I sat together, wondering exactly how to spell the sound of that silent scream, for I knew that I would be writing about this story, and wouldn't it be a whole lot better if I just narrated my thoughts in the first person? I know. I told you it made no sense...but as you get to know me, you will definitely realize that I (and my crazy surroundings for that matter) have more in common with Alice (not my grandmother, but the famous one in the Looking Glass) than I would like. I no longer believe it's a coincidence that people have called me by her name all my life.

Anyway, I couldn't come up with the spelling on my own (I could have searched the Internet this morning, but I feel that would have been cheating at this point), so that's how the title was born. I just had to give credit to the 1-2 hours I spent thinking up ways to creatively spell a silent scream.

OK, back to the man in the doorway syndrome. Background: I should tell you that this fear is not unfounded. I have actually awoken to find a stranger standing in my doorway before, and it wasn't that many years ago. It was one of the most adrenaline-driven moments of my life. It's actually a great story...one which I will tell y'all if you remind me...but the short of it is that I got out of bed, took 2 steps and clocked the bastard.

My point in telling you this is that I know what I am capable of in this situation. I have been put to the test, and I would say that I passed. It's comforting on more than one level to know this about yourself. And as a result, I do not sleep without a bat next to my bed. Hindsight found me wishing I had been able to grab something like a bat to use in that first experience (though I know it was for the best that I did not have one at that time--I probably would have killed the poor kid); but I would be damned if I would be found wanting a second time, if in fact, the scenario ever presented itself again.

So knowing this about myself, and knowing I am armed with a bat, why am I experiencing this subconscious freak-out? Why am I so unnerved that I cannot shut off the TV until I see the faint light of morning?

When I discussed this with my mom 2-days ago she said, "Well, you do have the dog in your room", and she's right. Dogs notice when someone breaks into the house...particularly mine who not only barks but growls and snarls at the little old ladies walking innocently on my street. He's perfect for the job. Yet in a late-breaking development last night, a very dissapointing turn of events occurred in which I sat in my bedroom with aforementioned dog while he drempt so hard that he didn't feel me forcefully pounding on the floor and speaking loudly to him for a timed 60-second period. Great. He can turn on a dime when it comes to the eldery on my street but fails to wake up to noise and vibration in the night. I think reliance on him as our whole alarm system, at least at night, is a bit...what's the word...stupid. I have yet to tell my mom about his failed performance.

But I want to know why I am having this problem...not that my dog is or is not a suitable alarm system or that I can and will use a bat against an intruder. So when I think about the man in the doorway syndrome in the light of day today--and as I write it all out on paper (y'all know how cleansing and therapeutic I believe this activity to be)--I am starting to get a glimpse of the 'why'. Now, granted, I don't know SQUAT about dream interpretation or metaphoric symbolism or any of that stuff. But I do believe in it. So I do believe...no, scratch that. I have to believe that this whole man in the doorway thing is symbolic of something in my life.

As I write this I am hearing the faint sound of my inner voice, and it's saying the word 'change'. I don't know why, and I don't feel like asking at the moment. I would be willing to accept this as a contender, except that I am pretty darn good at change. So that might not be specific enough. But the word 'changing' seems to fit quite nicely. But why (arghhh...always with the why!!)? Well...

First, this whole project is a change of focus for me. But I already know that's not it. 100% no. I don't feel anxious about this. I am rather enjoying it.

I instead think that it may have something to do with the fact that the state of my physical being is changing. My recovery is entering a new chapter on the physical level, just as I am moving in a new direction mentally and spiritually. My body is experiencing so many different things these days: insane nerve issues, scrunched toes that don't straighten, new pain in my chest, indescribable pain in my left hamstring and abductor, noticeable changes due to brain injury, etc. These are all new things compared to the life I was introduced to in the hospital; a life which included being unable to use my left hand and shoulder, not being able to walk but learning to, etc. A life that was much tougher by many standards, but nevertheless has been my familiar scene for the past 6-months. Now that I can walk every day without needing a wheelchair, that I can use my left hand, that I can move my left shoulder, etc., I am moving (albeit slowly) into unfamiliar territory again. A territory that doesn't start out with 24-7 medical care and psychological care to ensure I am doing ok. Nope. I see my therapists and doctors at regularly scheduled follow-up/check-in visits now, unless it gets to be too much or I'm sick, and my PT is all done at home. Further, no support system exists for me mentally as I move forward (not that I don't have options...it's that the calvary isn't going to come charging around the corner if I have a bad day this time).

I actually think I have figured it out. I am changing, and it's scaring me because I do not know how to manage these new pains, if they are normal or not, and if they are here to stay or just part of the road to the next chapter. But the name for my villain is not the phrase "I am changing". It's "fear of the unknown".

Ah yes. That tricky bugger...I am familiar with him. He snuck right up on me this time. [growl] My inner voice seems to agree with this analysis, which has suddenly put me at ease. Interesting. I am not usually able to figure out such things without beating myself bloody against the wall for a while.

I am unsure what to do about this fear, except to find a way to accept it. Perhaps I will make a list of all my new issues/symptoms just to put some kind of envelope around something what seems to be so infinite at the moment. Perhaps I will find a counselor. Perhaps I will do both. The real litmus test, I think, will be over the next few nights when it comes time to turn off the light.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Day After Tomorrow...

Ok, so the title doesn't really work...I know. I was just trying for some wit after yesterday's (oh, what's the word...) verbal diarrhea? Well, I suppose sometimes you swing and miss (ummm...tangent thought: will I continue to riddle this project with baseball metaphors?).

So. Where to go from here? Well, first I am tweaking my goal. Yesterday's post was clearly an all-out unloading of my pent-up emotion onto paper (or whatever you want to call this digital medium). After I hit the 'Publish Post' button, I mean, IMmediately after, I sucked in (and let out) the biggest sigh of relief. That's not to say that I didn't make some merit-worthy points. It was just a little overcooked as I looked at it in the light of day.

I just realized that I'll never ever find an answer to the question I have formed. No one can get a definitive answer as to why they survived an accident (or anything else along those lines), unless you simply list all of the lucky circumstances and the subsequent repair work done to you (i.e. a purely medical rescue point of view). I mean, I am perfectly willing to concede that some people do have religious miracles which give them verse to the meaning of such events and more, but we all know that's not typical.

With that in mind, I find it necessary to reform my purpose. Yes. I want to know why I survived. I will always want to know this, and I would be willing to bet that most, if not all, people who have walked this path have searched for this answer, at least within themselves. I mean, this is a question that has come out of my mouth so many times as I cried myself to sleep or just plain sobbed in misery due to pain.

But as I set out to answer this question I had failed to do an important thing. I forgot that I should have looked back at myself and asked, with deeper concentration, where I wanted to be after I found my answer. I mean, what does that scenario look like? What is it that I really want here?

And through that, I quite suddenly know that I don't need to understand the divine secrets of the universe. When I look at the desired end result I find that I want to be able to stop sobbing while beating my head repeatedly against this question's unobtainable nature. I want to be at peace with the fact that I survived...to come to grips with it. As I sit back and ponder that one, I am now thinking that in the end, I'm not sure it matters why...so long as I can be ok with the fact that I did.

And who knows? We (friends, family and I) have all said, over and over for months and months, that it clearly wasn't my time to go--that there was some other purpose for me--something I was still meant to do (or learn, as I previously stated). Somewhere deep down I have always felt that I would find my way to this answer (if it was, in fact, something to be found). Perhaps I will discover this during my journey to come to grips with my survival.

I am quite proud of myself for this revelation. I mean, I am not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to self-analysis...I think people who are capable of such a thing have a rare gift. Yet, I am certain that this is what I need to do...because if I am at peace with my survival...if the knot is no longer there...if I can once again watch shows like I Shouldn't Be Alive without trauma...if I can be in a car without a sharp level of panic when the driver takes his concentration away from the road for even a nanosecond...if I am able to [insert text here]. Because if I can achieve that, I will have paved the road to move on with my life. Hmmmm...